April 10, 2013

It is time to be old?

This blog has been running a series about the life and writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson for a good while now. As the series draws to a close I'm looking at some of his poems. Today's feature is "Terminus," named after the Roman god of boundaries.

It's interesting because it is about aging and yielding gracefully to it. You can compare and contrast that sentiment with Tennyson's poem Ulysses, in which the hero closes by saying

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Emerson, by contrast, aims to trim himself to the storm of time. As it turned out, the poem was prophetic. In his last years, he developed dementia and the man of words developed aphasia, forgetting his own name at times.

As someone who isn't getting a whole lot younger at the moment, I kind of like both poems but at the moment I'm leaning to Tennyson. This weekend I plan on dragging my creaking bones to a half marathon trail run on very hilly ground and I hope not to yield before crossing the finish line. Anyhow, here's one to think about:


 It is time to be old,
To take in sail:--
The gods of bounds,
Who sets to seas a shore,
Came to me in his fatal rounds,
And said: 'No more!
No farther shoot
Thy broad ambitious branches, and thy root.
Fancy departs: no more invent;
Contract thy firmament
To compass of a tent.
There's not enough for this and that,
Make thy option which of two;
Economize the failing river,
Not the less revere the Giver,
Leave the many and hold the few.
Timely wise accept the terms,
Soften the fall with wary foot;
A little while
Still plan and smile,
And,--fault of novel germs,--
Mature the unfallen fruit.
Curse, if thou wilt, thy sires,
Bad husbands of their fires,
Who, when they gave thee breath,
Failed to bequeath
The needful sinew stark as once,
The Baresark marrow to thy bones,
But left a legacy of ebbing veins,
Inconstant heat and nerveless reins,--
Amid the Muses, left thee deaf and dumb,
Amid the gladiators, halt and numb.'
As the bird trims her to the gale,
I trim myself to the storm of time,
I man the rudder, reef the sail,
Obey the voice at eve obeyed at prime:
'Lowly faithful, banish fear,
Right onward drive unharmed;
The port, well worth the cruise, is near,
And every wave is charmed.'

DO IT. Here's a link to a publication by AFSC on why WV should expand Medicaid coverage.

WHAT WAS FOR SUPPER? According to the earliest known cookware, it was fish soup.

BACK TO THE AGING THING. It looks like today's adults live longer but are less healthy than recent but older generations.


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